Over the years, my group has tried to do the distance gaming thing. We had a bunch of our gamers move away to Texas, or their schedules were such that getting to Albuquerque to play was inconvenient. We tried having people Skype, Google Hangouts, or Facetime in so that we could have the gamer on the iPad or computer, the group on the other side. This led to issues of sound quality, trying to arrange the play space so that the missing player could see everyone, and connection quality. In short, it never quite worked out. One option that popped up was Roll20, an online gaming tabletop.

A few nights ago, I was talking with a friend from my high school/college gaming days, who was lamenting his being out of the hobby for almost two decades. He just hadn’t been able to find a group, and finally gave up on it. We were discussing Roll20, and I finally had a good look at it. Previously, it wasn’t really an option. I’m on a Mac, and my old 2010 Air wouldn’t have handled the Flash-based video conferencing without the fan sounding like a jumbo jet taking off; the new 2015 Air, however, handles the site with no issues…so I decided it was time to revisit.

The website requires you to set up an account, and you can set yourself up as GM or player. As GM, you invite your players to a game-specific web address, then you can video conference. I suspect the best way to do this will be with gaming headsets for sound quality. It has a table “space” that you can draw or import maps, player icon/tokens, and annotate. You roll die in the space, as well, and the results are tallied on a running chat panel to the right of the play space. Dice types, combination rolls, Fate dice — they’re all possible. Players can also upload characters sheets (there are already many of these set up on the site), to make things easy.

I’ve only played around a bit with it and haven’t yet tried the conferencing feature, but I suspect this might be a good option for folks looking to play with friends around the world. It looks best set up to handle two-five players, each calling in  individually. I’m going to have a go with it at some point in the near future, and will report back once I have.

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